Mini version of the silk quilt

If you don’t remember the antique silk quilt I wrote about last winter, here’s where you can refresh your memory. There are several posts about my research if you look around a bit. (there, here, and more) I made the pineapple block out of cotton not silk and as close to the fabric patterns as Lucretia’s as I could find. I used one of her blocks as a model. It took 4 hours to make one block with paper piecing and my machine so imagine how long it took her to make one of her blocks by hand on a muslin foundation. After I got one block done I decided to try my hand at a few more and then on I moved to the borders.

When people see the silk quilt they want to touch it which is a no-no because the fabric is damaged and falling apart. Little silk pieces fall like dried leaves whenever I open it. Especially the pink. So I thought I would make a model of the quilt so people could touch it and see it up close. A mini, if you will.DSC00496

As I was adding the checkerboard border I was thinking, ‘what have I done?? this thing is wild!’ But then I added the dark brown border and it seemed to settle down. The brown stopped the insanity. All of the sizes of the pieces are mostly the same as Lucretia’s quilt. I even saw that she had the same red and gray 4-patch in each corner.DSC00497




I made the back like her’s with the brown and a purple frame. She quilted in the ditch by hand, not me. Mine’s by machine. She used a brown thread. I used brown in the bobbin and cream on top. She basted hers before quilting, I used pins.DSC00500


She did not have batting in between and I used a soft cotton/poly blend. Hers had enough body with the muslin foundation. Lucretia’s binding was the back brought to the front. I haven’t done that before but did it here. It’s a very narrow binding and I used small applique-like stitches. After all it will be seen and ‘critiqued’.DSC00502

This was a fun project! I haven’t formulated plans for what I will do with it and it’s older big sister. Still thinking about it.



Confirmation of my theory

Last week I went to the New England Quilt Museum so that the Mass. Quilt Documentation Project could document the antique quilt. I told them who I thought made it and why. They thought my theory was reasonable and they used my estimated date in their documentation.

I had a few other questions and went into the NEQM library for help.

1. Was all the fabric silk? Yes. I spent time with an interesting book on the types of silk that had swatches!

2. Can I find any credence to my theory of Lucretia being the quiltmaker? YES!! From The Quilt Encyclopedia Illustrated by Carter Houck, 1991, the following..

“In the second quarter of the [19th] century, full bed quilts were pieced of silk in much the same patterns used for pieced cottons….In the next quarter century silk dress scraps were used in many smaller parlor throws. Simple designs, such as pieced stars and Log Cabins, were favored.”

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some very fine silk quilts were made that can only be described as ‘dressmaker quilts’ because, where the history of these quilts is available, it is known that the makers worked with scraps from their daily business, either in clothing factories or as ladies’ dressmakers.”


I had supposed that Lucretia, being a dressmaker in 1900, had saved scraps from her work in order to use such a large variety in the quilt. I also learned from NEQM that women could buy ‘scrap bags’ for use however they wanted.

3. Why was the pink silk so damaged? Not entirely sure but it could have been a lower quality material. They gave me a “Care of Silk Quilts” sheet to take home and some hints are there. “…even though a piece of silk may appear in perfect condition, it can be extremely fragile.” The best storage conditions were not observed for most of the quilt’s long life which ultimately damaged it. The condition of the quilt was given a “poor” rating by the documenters.

Also when I was there, a family brought in a silk quilt that was AWESOME. The library people were excited to see 2 silk quilts in one day. They called the director to the work room to see this one. It was all small diamond shapes, cut from silk ribbons, in a star pattern (like a Lone Star). It was large, maybe queen bed size. And it was octagonal! Maybe it was used as a tablecover. It was not quilted but it was completely hand sewn with teeny stitches. All the points matched! And most of the pieces were fussy cut! Really amazing. The director put in a plug for donating it to the museum. The family had some excellent history to go with it. Always good to have provenance for antiques.

And I got to see the current exhibit at the museum which was SAQA Masters. Wonderful.

Fun day!

The Quiltmaker, Part 1

The following is an essay on the life of Lucretia K. Shaufler Lerch. I theorize that she is the maker of the antique pineapple block quilt. We may never know for sure because there is no name on the quilt or documentation of it that I have found. Most of the information here is factual.

In October 1882 William Harrison Shaufler married Mary Magdalena Early in Pennsylvania. William had been living in E. Hanover and Mary in Londonderry Township. The towns are over 140 miles from each other so I haven’t a clue how they met. It was William’s second marriage. His first wife was Mary Harmon and they had 3 girls: Elizabeth, Amy, and Minnie. Mary Harmon died in 1874 after giving birth to Minnie. In 1880, William left his girls with his parents and was working in Harrisburg as a barkeeper. He was living in a hotel or rooming house in the city. William had been a butcher for most of his life and a miller.

Mary William

Mary Magdalena Early and William Harrison Shaufler

Mary Early’s ancestors were from Germany. Her great-great-grandfather immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1750. Mary was from a large family with 10 siblings. In 1880 she was keeping house for her widowed father at the farm in Londonderry. Her younger sister Lucretia (a teacher), sister Annie, and brother Ezra (a farmer) were also living there. Mary was 39 when she married William and he was 41.

Mary and William had 2 daughters: Lucretia Kathryn born in 1884 and Edna in 1892. Lucretia was named after her aunt. She was born in Lyonsville, PA, now known as Exton, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. Lucretia was a leap year baby, born on February 29th. In that year, the Statue of Liberty was under construction.

While Lucretia was growing up, these are some of the headlines they would have read in the newspaper:

  • 1886 American Federation of Labor is founded.
  • 1888 The Great Blizzard
  • 1889 US President is Harrison.
  • 1890 Wounded Knee massacre  in S. Dakota
  • 1893 US President is Cleveland. The Panic of 1893 causes a severe economic depression. 1st gasoline powered car in the US.
  • 1896 The Klondike Gold Rush. The first modern Olympic Games.
  • 1897 US President is   McKinley.
  • 1898 The Spanish American   War

In 1900 Lucretia was 16 and living with her parents and sister Edna (8) in E. Hanover, PA, about 25 miles east of Harrisburg. Harrisburg is in the Pennsylvania Dutch country and is the county seat of Dauphin County. Lucretia is a dressmaker and is not going to school. Her father is a butcher and rents their home. Lucretia had wanted to be a nurse but her parents did not approve. Instead she attended the Union Deposit Normal School and earned a teaching certificate. Union Deposit was an unincorporated community in S. Hanover, PA. A “normal school” was secondary education for people who wanted to teach elementary students.

It is my theory that Lucretia made the pineapple block quilt sometime between 1900 and 1903 for her hope chest. She may have made it from the silk scraps she collected from making dresses and shirtwaists for customers.


Lucretia Kathryn Shaufler

On August 25, 1903 Lucretia married Clayton Albert Lerch in Derry Township, PA. She was 19 years old. They were married on Clayton’s 26th birthday. Also in 1903 the town of Hershey, within Derry, was chartered. This is where the chocolate factory and park are located. The Wright brothers flew the first airplane this year as well.

Clayton was born in Grantville, PA in 1877. His parents were Daniel and Christiana Lerch (first cousins) and they were married in 1866. Daniel and Christiana’s first born son Calvin died as an infant and then Clayton was their only child. They were farmers. When Christiana was helping with the haying one season, she fell off the hay wagon and broke her back. Her back was hunched and she was disabled the rest of her life. Only German was spoken in this home. Clayton learned English when he started public school. He attended Lehigh University for one year.

Daniel Christiana

Daniel Albert and Christiana Lerch

In 1900, Clayton was 22 and living with his parents in E. Hanover. He was a public school teacher in a one room schoolhouse. He became an electrician by the time he was married.


Clayton Albert Lerch

Lucretia and Clayton moved to S. Orange, NJ, just outside of Newark. She traveled to Palmyra, PA likely to be with her mother in October 1904 when she gave birth to her first daughter and my grandmother, Beatrice (Bea) Edna. She then returned to NJ. The small family eventually moved to Plainfield, part of Piscataway, NJ, 35 miles from New York City. Here Lucretia had 4 more babies: 1909 Eleanor (Billie), 1911 Everett, 1915 Ruth, and 1918 Norman. She made christening gowns for each of her babies and saved them.

 LKS Beatrice

Lucretia and Beatrice Edna Lerch, circa 1905

Clayton and Lucretia home schooled all of their children in their early years. Bea didn’t go to public school until she was 10 and she graduated from high school at 15. Ruth went to school at age 7. All the children graduated from high school but did not go to college.

Lucretia was an excellent seamstress and made almost everything her children wore. It is very likely she had a sewing machine and may have purchased fabric in town and patterns from a catalog such as Sears & Roebuck. She taught her daughters to sew. She was also a very good cook, making many of the German dishes taught to her by her mother.

Lucretia’s father passed away in November 1913. He had a lingering illness called “paresis” which is a term for a weakness of the limbs from a neurological disorder. Clayton’s mother died in February 1917.

They had a house which they owned with a mortgage. Clayton initially worked in construction and then was a full time electrician. In 1918, Clayton registered for the WWI draft and listed his employer as Electric Motor & Repair in Newark, NJ. The war ended in 1918 and Clayton did not serve.

Living so close to New York City until 1920, they would have discussed and perhaps attended gatherings, meeting, or rallies. Some of the headlines in this time were:

  • 1910 Halley’s Comet.
  • 1911 NYC Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
  • 1912 the Titanic sinks
  • 1913 US President is Wilson
  • 1914 World War I starts, the Cape Cod Canal opens.
  • 1915 The Red Sox win the World Series.
  • 1918 World War I ends.  The influenza pandemic occurs, 800,000 US citizens die.
  • 1919 19th ammendment  ratified giving women the vote. Prohibition starts.

Social problems were high and labor unions grew. The middle class became more unhappy. Children worked in mills until a minimum age law was passed in the states. Women were striving for equality. Immigration was very high into New York. (My Polish grandparents arrived at Ellis Island in 1910 and 1911). There was poverty, hunger, and illness in the city. America became the most highly industrialized country and the millionth Model T rolled off the assembly line.

Women began to think more of comfort for their clothing and hemlines inched up above the ankles. The children may have played with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. The Ouija Board became popular. A simple folding Kodak camera made picture taking easier and popular.

From Wikipedia:

Paterson NJ (40 miles north of the Lerch’s) was a mecca for immigrant laborers who worked in its silk factories. Paterson was the site of historic labor unrest that focused on anti-child labor legislation, and the six-month long Paterson silk strike of 1913 that demanded the eight-hour day and better working conditions, but was defeated by the employers with workers forced to return under pre-strike conditions. Factory workers labored long hours for low wages under dangerous conditions, and lived in crowded tenement buildings around the mills. In 1919, Paterson was one of eight locations bombed by self-identified anarchists.[25]

The strike began on March 3, 1913. During the course of the strike, approximately 1,850 strikers were arrested, including Industrial Workers of the World leaders William Dudley Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.[1]

Lucretia suffered from bronchitis and her doctor suggested that Clayton move her to a warm climate. So they sold their home and furnishings and packed up their household. Clayton took a ship to Jacksonville Florida and then a train to Orlando. He found them an apartment. Lucretia and the five children ages 15, 11, 8, 4, and 2 took a train to Orlando. They arrived April 10, 1920.

Part 2 will follow.

The Pineapple Block

I got it in my head that I wanted to make a block from the Antique Quilt! So I did. I have an excellent appreciation now for how long it took to make the quilt. It took her a very long time. It took me 4 hours to make ONE BLOCK!!! 7.5″ !!!! And I have my modern tools and techniques: rotary cutter, self healing mat, computer and printer, electric sewing machine. She used sissors, a ruler, pencil, needle and thread. Sewing machines were available back then but this quilt was hand stitched.

I used one block from the quilt as my model.DSC00311

Then I went looking for similar fabrics in cotton, not silk. The pink and red plaid are prominent throughout the quilt so those I wanted to choose carefully. This is my selection…DSC00340

The blue plaid is a lot tighter than the original, well that will have to be ok. But I cut it on the diagonal to look like the original. I couldn’t find a gray and white stripe so I made one. That was a pain to install.

I used my EQ7 software to find the block and it’s called Tight Pineapple. I printed several as foundation patterns and went to work. I used paper-piecing for the project. Lucretia used muslin as a foundation. I don’t know but maybe she drew some guide lines on the muslin with pencil to help her. I’m not going to tell you here how to paper piece, but I used the strip method. That was best for this project because all the pieces are the same width. EXCEPT for the last corner which I of course didn’t measure until I got there so I had to make an executive decision and switch colors and you might not have noticed until I told you and finished up this run-on sentence. Breath.DSC00341

I like how it turned out. There were 57 pieces!!!DSC00342

Now I am thinking that I want to make 3 more. I’ll make a mini quilt to look like the original antique including the 3 borders. That’s the plan. I might make the blocks all the same even tho Lucretia used more scraps. Still thinking about that. I’m not going to let people touch the silk antique quilt because it is so fragile. This mini would be something we can touch.

On a personal note, Laura has been smiling since before Thanksgiving!! “The most wonderful time of the year….” She’s feeling good, yay! And it’s Christmastime. Unfortunately she now has day and night mixed up and is up all night smiling at the nurses. Good grief.


The Antique Quilt

Extra special surprise posting today! I now have a very special quilt in my house, given to me by my Aunt Nancy a few weeks ago. I plan to do several postings about this quilt, not put everything out there in one day. Keep coming back for more!!

It is definitely an antique, likely 100 years old. It was possibly made by my great grandmother, more about that another day. I will be bringing it to the New England Quilt Museum later in December where it will be examined by the Massachusetts Quilt Documentation Project. They may be able to tell me more about it. Here it is…(sorry it’s sideways)

It is not a quilt by the strict definition; it does not have a batting or filler of any kind. However, it is stitched through all layers with quilting stitches. It is 65” x 72.5”. It is full of colorful fabrics that may be all silk. There is cotton on the back.

The center of the quilt has 7 blocks across and 8 down, total of 56 blocks (check my math). The blocks are 7.5”, sort of square. They are the Pineapple block, also sometimes known as the Windmill Blades block. The silks were sewn by hand onto a muslin foundation and then joined together. I know there is muslin underneath because there is disintegration of some of the fabrics, mostly the pink, and I can see the foundation.

The first border is strips of colorful fabrics of differing lengths and a 1 3/8” width. The second border is a double row checkerboard pattern with a total width of 3 1/8”. The final border is dark brown with a 1 5/8” width.

The back is medium solid brown cotton and interestingly, it has a solid purple border stripe of 3 5/8” around the edge. It was quilted with tiny hand stitches of brown (or black) thread. She basted it together first with white thread. (I know because I found a stray thread through the quilt with its knot still in place. I quickly pulled it off – maybe I shouldn’t have?) It is loosely quilted: each block has quilting in the ditch around one row and one border has quilting in the ditch. The edge was finished by folding the back over to the front and whip stitching it closed. The binding is narrow, about 3/16”.

There is some damage on the quilt. The fabrics have worn along the center fold and some are pulling away from the seam. The pink especially is brittle. When I held it up, the pink fluttered away like feathers. There are some very small circle stains or marks on the back. Looks like maybe rust, one spot of oil.

I have been doing a lot of research and I plan several more postings about this treasure:

  • Who made it? Why do I think it was my great grandmother Lucretia?
  • Who was Lucretia? What was going on in her life? Why did she make it?
  • A little bit of genealogy
  • Why did she make it from silk?

So many questions! Such a quilting mystery.